April 20, 2011

Mandated School Lunch Programs

I recently came across this article about a south side Chicago Public School that has banned brown bag lunches in an effort to improve student health.  Some people are up in arms about "the government feeding our kids," but I'm willing to bet that most people who say this haven't been in school cafeterias recently.  I've done my fair share of lunch duties, and even in my upper-middle class district, there is very little that can be considered healthy about those "home-made" lunches.  Instead, I see pop, sugary juices, chips, cookies, and processed meats and cheeses.

There are way too many people in this country that do not have the education or the resources to provide proper nutrition for their kids.  No one wants to feed their kids crap, but some just don't know any other way.  Or they lack the finances to make it happen.  Others are just too busy to worry about it and turn to pre-packed snacks in an effort to make their lives easier.

And yes, I recognize that there are parents out there that make great decisions for their kids and feel it's their "rights" to pack them a lunch.  But I would ask those parents to consider the needs of the vast majority of students and what would be best for the greater good.  I'm a believer in the whole "it takes a village" mantra and think that we should be concerned with the health of all of our children, not only the ones we parent. 

To be completely fair, I share the concern that the school lunches I've seen are not much healthier.  From what I've seen (at eaten), they offer canned fruits and salads, but it's also carb-city in there: pizza, tater tots, breaded meats, pasta, rolls, nachos, etc.  And because they offer candy bars, chips, pop tarts, etc. as well, I've seen too many students make a lunch out of those things day after day.  I believe our schools really need to be dedicated to offering a nutritious menu - especially when school meals are sometimes the only meals for students on the free breakfast and lunch program.  I also think the parents who are resistant to the idea of mandated school lunches would feel much better if they knew their kids were going to be served healthy foods!  Seriously, Jamie Oliver should be welcomed into every district with open arms!  

I'm too lazy to look them up right now, but I know there have been studies about the link between school lunches and student behavior and achievement.  With little nutrition in their meals, how can we expect our kids to be in the best state for learning?  Schools that have revamped their cafeteria lunches have shown marked improvement in state assessments as well as behavior.  Why wouldn't we want that for all students?

What are your thoughts?  How would you feel if this mandated school lunch program came to your child's school?


  1. I haveb een thinking a lot about this.
    My first inital reaction is I don't like the idea of the school being in control of my kids meals like that (we don't do much hot lunch here.) But then your point about in a way "taking one for the team" makes a lot of sense too. Would it be a greater benefit for other kids if all of them HAD to eat school lunch? Perhaps. I know many home lunches packed and sent aren't the best but we try really hard to provide healthy lunch snacks and options and I do feel for the most part ours are better for their health than what is served at school. But your point made me think.
    Another question I have though is who pays for all these lunches? If Ty and Maddy had hot lunch 5 days a week it'd cost us $25 just for lunches. Throw in Henry and we're at %37.50/week. It's hard for me to think of spending nearly $40/wk on lunches at school :( And can a majority of families afford this or would this be subsidized for those that can't?
    Just my thoughts...

  2. Good point about the cost, Samara. They definitely need to make it economical for everyone if they're going to mandate it. Dumb question: how much would you estimate you spend on their lunches when you make them yourself?

  3. Erin, Good question on the packing lunch cost. I guess I've never thought about that before since it's usually things we already have, lunchmeat, bread, chips or salty snack, fruit, cookie, juice box. I am thinking though it's significantly less than $40/week. Even if we only get lunchmeat for lunches that's $12-$15/week. I should pay attention to this next fall!